Many families live long distances from one another, and caregiving from afar is more prevalent today than it has been in years. Trends in family mobility and urbanization are moving more and more adult children farther from their aging parents, making family care more difficult.
If you are one of the many who don’t live nearby to care for your aging parents, no need to panic. You can still be actively involved and take on a meaningful caregiving role from miles away.
At FirstLight Home Care, we help many families living miles between loved ones and have found the following tips to be very helpful for long-distance caregivers who can’t be near their loved one to provide daily care.
Gather and organize all important documents
Find the following documentation and records and put them all into one binder: all legal, financial, and insurance documents, including birth certificates, social security cards, marriage or divorce decrees, wills and power of attorney. Identify bank accounts, titles, sources of income and obligations, and auto, life, homeowner’s, and medical insurance papers. Review these documents for accuracy and update them if necessary. Make a backup copy for your records and place everything in a safe place, such as a safe-deposit box or a fireproof box. Having all these key documents in one location will help you immensely when they’re needed.
Develop a care plan
If possible, bring the family together for a care planning meeting. Decide, with your aging loved one, what their primary needs are and who can aid in that care. Also, identify the local senior services and other resources that are available in the community. In a perfect world, you should summarize your plans in writing to refer to when a situation arises.
Plan your visits
It’s important that you see your loved one during the year to spend quality time with them, but also to reassess their care needs.
- Make appointments with their healthcare professionals, lawyer, and financial adviser during your visit to ask questions and participate in key decision-making.
- Meet with neighbors, friends and other local relatives to hear how they think the person is doing. Ask if there have been any behavioral changes, health problems or safety issues that you should be aware of and address them immediately.
- Spend quality time together talking, listening to music, going for a walk or participating in activities you enjoy together.
- Check your loved one’s pantry, cabinets and refrigerator to make sure there is enough appropriate food. Throw out any food that is expired. Help them prepare meals that can be frozen and enjoyed later.
- Review all medications to make sure they are being taken as prescribed.
- Coordinate family meetings to discuss how the care plan is working, what changes need to happen, or simply use this time to give the local family caregiver a break. If any changes are made to the care plan, update the original document and distribute to family members.
Survey the house
When you are visiting your loved one, use this time to evaluate their living conditions. Check each room to make sure the lighting is working properly, and remove potential trip hazards such as cords, furniture, and rugs. Walk around the house and yard to evaluate outdoor steps, landscaping, and lighting to ensure pathways are safe and clear. If something isn’t working properly or could be a safety hazard, fix it or hire a professional.
Utilize today’s technology to communicate with doctors and caregivers. If a neighbor or friend regularly checks on your parent, call and get updates from them. Allocate time from your weekly schedule to call or video chat with your parent. Hearing their voice and catching up on their daily happenings will reduce the feelings that you are both isolated from each other.
Take good care of yourself
Caring for your parent – at any distance – can be stressful and overwhelming. In any case, you need to maintain your own health. Make time for yourself, set limits, and allow other family members and professional caregivers to help. Check out one of our most popular blog posts, Stress and the Family Caregiver, for additional tips that you might find helpful.
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We are proud to CHAMPION the family caregiver, offering empathy, advice, and support for those who provide countless hours of care to their loved ones. We want to provide a helping hand, relieve some of the stress that comes with caregiving and give you back a few hours in your overwhelmingly busy day.
- Home Care Association of America
- National Alliance for Caregiving